I'm thinking of repurposing computer fans (case fans and/or CPU/GPU fans) for a hobby steam turbine project. So the idea would be to use the fan rotors in the turbine to drive the shaft (discarding their electronics.)

However, this means that the fans would run in quite high temperatures; 100 degrees celsius I suppose, since it's steam.

Hence my question, what's the upper temperature limit of a typical, plastic computer fan? Will it survive steam?

  • $\begingroup$ Depends on the grade of plastic. Why don’t you hold one above a boiling kettle of water as a start? $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike Jun 29 '20 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ @SolarMike I was thinking of that as well, the issue is that I'm looking at buying some used ones for the project if its a viable approach, so I don't really have one to test with yet. $\endgroup$ – hexamon Jun 29 '20 at 21:42

The steam pressure in the boiler will be greater than atmospheric, so the steam temperature will be above 100C. A typical ready-built boiler boiler for steam powered models (sold with a pressure test certificate!) would have a maximum working pressure of 4 or 5 bar, which would give steam temperatures around 150C.

Many common plastics will start to soften at temperatures even below 100C, and there is no obvious reason why a computer fan should be designed to work at very high temperatures, so using computer fan parts is probably not going to work.

Temperature ratings of some common plastics are here: https://omnexus.specialchem.com/polymer-properties/properties/max-continuous-service-temperature. There are not many options for temperatures over 100C.

Live steam is not stuff you should play with unless you understand what you are doing. It is too easy to get third degree burns if things go wrong! A compressed air powered turbine might be a safer project, with no high temperature issues to worry about.

  • $\begingroup$ That all makes a lot of sense. Compressed air was a good tip as well. $\endgroup$ – hexamon Jun 30 '20 at 9:05

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